The latest on the coronavirus pandemic and the Omicron variant

By Jack Guy, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Maureen Chowdhury, Melissa Mahtani, Melissa Macaya and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 7:23 p.m. ET, December 22, 2021
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10:48 a.m. ET, December 22, 2021

Princess Anne, Queen Elizabeth's daughter, quarantining after husband tests positive for Covid-19

From CNN's Max Foster in London

 Princess Anne, Princess Royal and Timothy Laurence at The Gatcombe Horse Trials at Gatcombe Park on September 14, 2019 in Stroud, England.
 Princess Anne, Princess Royal and Timothy Laurence at The Gatcombe Horse Trials at Gatcombe Park on September 14, 2019 in Stroud, England. (Mark Cuthbert/UK Press/Getty Images)

The United Kingdom's Princess Anne is quarantining after her husband, Sir Tim Laurence, tested positive for Covid-19, a royal source told CNN on Wednesday. 

Laurence is isolating and following the appropriate coronavirus rules, the source added. 

The Covid-19 exposure means that Princess Anne and her husband will not attend Christmas Day celebrations at Windsor Castle. 

Princess Anne, officially known as The Princess Royal, is the second child and only daughter of Queen Elizabeth II. 

10:13 a.m. ET, December 22, 2021

TSA screened nearly 2 million travelers across US airports on Tuesday

From CNN’s Pete Muntean

The Transportation Security Administration announced that it screened just shy of another two million people at airports nationwide on Tuesday. 

The 1.98 million people screened ends a five-day streak of air travel figures higher than two million, but peak travel days are still ahead. 

The TSA says Thursday, Dec. 23 will be one of the busiest of the holiday travel period.

The TSA anticipates 20 million people will fly between Dec. 23 and Jan. 3, rivaling pre-pandemic figures from 2019.

9:39 a.m. ET, December 22, 2021

NYC mayor says he's "hopeful" New Year's Eve celebration will still happen

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Confetti are flying in the air on a mostly empty Times Square for New Years Eve in New York City on January 1, 2021.
Confetti are flying in the air on a mostly empty Times Square for New Years Eve in New York City on January 1, 2021. (Corey Sipkin/AFP/Getty Images)

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he is still discussing New Year's Eve celebration plans with other city leaders, and he's "hopeful" the event will still happen despite a rise in coronavirus cases.

"We're working with the sponsors of the event, we're working with our healthcare leaders. Right now, [we have] two great virtues: an all-vaccinated audience and outdoors. We're looking to add additional measures to make it even safer. So we're still in discussion. The goal, of course, is to keep it going because it's such an important event for New Yorkers and for the whole world. But if we're able to figure out the right formula, to keep people safe, that's what we're working on right now," he said.

The mayor did not elaborate on the possible additional measures.

"We should not assume the answer to Omicron is shutdown. We should assume the answer to Omicron is find the measures that work to keep things moving," he added.  

Paris, London Rio de Janeiro, Rome and other major cities have all canceled their New Year's celebrations.

De Blasio said Omicron "is here; it's coming on like a freight train," but booster shots are effective in minimizing dangerous effects of the virus.

While there were over 9,000 cases reported in the city yesterday, there were 200 hospitalizations, according to a tweet from the mayor.

De Blasio said the city has over 112 city-run test centers, plus many private ones, and while New Yorkers have encountered long lines, "you can get a test for sure."

He added: "The President should take the Defense Production Act and take it to the maximum, because we're going to need billions over the next few months — billions of at-home tests."

9:06 a.m. ET, December 22, 2021

German health minister warns mandatory vaccination may be needed to counter next Covid-19 wave 

From CNN's Chris Stern and Niamh Kennedy

German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach looks on during a press conference on the situation of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic in Germany, in Berlin on December 22, 2021.
German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach looks on during a press conference on the situation of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic in Germany, in Berlin on December 22, 2021. (Omer Messinger/AFP/Getty Images)

Omicron is likely to become the dominant strain of Covid-19 in Germany in a few weeks, according to experts, and German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach warned mandatory vaccination may be needed to counter the next wave of infections. 

Speaking during a joint news conference in Berlin on Wednesday, the president of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), Lothar Wieler, warned that "in two to three weeks at the latest, the variant could be the predominant form of the coronavirus in Germany." 

Germany has so far detected 540 cases of Omicron, according to Wieler, although the RKI suspects that there may be several thousand undetected cases of the new variant. 

In the face of rising infections, Lauterbach, also an epidemiologist, warned that mandatory vaccination may be needed to cope with the next wave of Covid-19. 

"Without mandatory vaccination, I do not see us managing further waves in the long term," Lauterbach said.

In early December, Germany banned unvaccinated people from most areas of public life, limiting them to essential businesses such as pharmacies and supermarkets. 70.5% of people are fully vaccinated in Germany according to the latest government data published Wednesday.

Lauterbach strongly urged Germans to take up the offer of a booster vaccine, calling it the "most important component in combating the Omicron variant."

At least 33.8% of the population have received a booster dose in Germany, according to the latest government data published Wednesday.

8:34 a.m. ET, December 22, 2021

India's capital bans all gatherings due to rise in Omicron coronavirus variant

From CNN's Swati Gupta in New Delhi

The government of India’s union territory of Delhi, which encompasses the national capital of New Delhi, has announced a ban on all social, cultural, political and festival gatherings until further notice due to a rise in Covid-19 cases. 

All officials “shall ensure that no cultural events/gatherings/congregations take place for celebrating Christmas or New Year” in the region, according to the Delhi government’s order. 

The Delhi Disaster Management Authority has also reiterated that the rule of "no mask no entry" should be enforced at all stores and offices. Bars and restaurants will be allowed to operate at only 50% capacity. 

On Tuesday, the Indian government issued a warning of “initial signs of a surge in cases of Covid-19” and “increased detection” of the Omicron variant across the country.

The letter from the health ministry asked state governments to impose containment measures in districts with a 10% or higher Covid-19 positivity rate or with 40% or higher hospital bed occupancy rate.

The letter quoted scientific evidence that suggests that Omicron is more contagious and therefore recommended implementing night curfews, regulating large gatherings, curtailing the numbers at marriages and funerals, restricting numbers at offices and on public transport in districts that fall within the government’s parameters.

At least 200 cases of Omicron have been detected in India since they were first reported on Dec. 2 and a total of at least 34,758,481 Covid-19 cases have been recorded in the country as of Wednesday, including at least 478,325 deaths, according to the Indian Health Ministry.

8:27 a.m. ET, December 22, 2021

New restrictions for Wales start the day after Christmas

First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford speaks during a press conference at the Welsh Government Building in Cathays Park on December 22, 2021 in Cardiff, Wales. A revised version of alert level two measures will be introduced from Boxing Day at 6am to help mitigate the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant.
First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford speaks during a press conference at the Welsh Government Building in Cathays Park on December 22, 2021 in Cardiff, Wales. A revised version of alert level two measures will be introduced from Boxing Day at 6am to help mitigate the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant. (Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)

The Welsh government will introduce new Covid-19 measures on Dec. 26 amid rising rates of the Omicron variant, reports the UK's PA Media.

The measures, announced by First Minister Mark Drakeford on Wednesday, constitute a return to Wales' alert level two.

They include a two-meter social distancing requirement in public premises and workplaces; a maximum group size of six people in hospitality venues, cinemas and theaters; and table service in hospitality venues, where patrons will have to wear a face covering apart from when they are seated.

“We are facing a very serious situation in Wales. A wave of infections caused by the new, fast-moving and very-infectious Omicron variant is headed our way,” said Drakeford.

“This new form of coronavirus could infect large numbers of people in Wales, disrupting daily lives and businesses, and could cause an increase in the number of people who need hospital care in the coming weeks."

Indoor events will be limited to 30 people, with a maximum of 50 allowed at outdoor events. Team sports will be one exception, with 50 people allowed to gather in addition to those playing.

There will not be any new rules regarding socializing in private homes, but there will be guidance on limiting visitor numbers, testing prior to the visit and meeting outdoors where possible.

7:40 a.m. ET, December 22, 2021

Prior behavior more important for safety of holiday gatherings than journey there, Walensky says

From CNN Health’s Naomi Thomas

The safety of holiday gatherings has less to do with a person’s journey there and more to do with the way they behaved the week leading up to it, said Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), on NBC’s “Today” show Wednesday.

“We really do want people to be able to gather, and safe gathering includes, of course, being vaccinated, ideally being boosted if you’re eligible to be boosted, and making sure that all the people who you gather with are also vaccinated and boosted,” Walenksy said when asked if people who are vaccinated and boosted can forego testing and spend time with friends and loved ones.

“But I want to remind folks that, you know, so much about the safety of your gathering has less to do with the plane ride or the train ride that you’re going to do to get there and very much to do with the behaviors that you have in the week prior to your gathering," she added.

“Have you been practicing those safe prevention strategies? Or have you been out and gathering in indoor settings, public indoor settings without a mask on? Because that’s really when your exposure would have happened,” said Walensky.

7:08 a.m. ET, December 22, 2021

Biden offers rare praise of Trump during Covid speech

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez and Nikki Carvajal

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about the omicron variant of the coronavirus in the State Dining Room of the White House, December 21, 2021 in Washington, DC. As the omicron variant fuels a new wave of COVID-19 infections, Biden announced plans that will expand testing sites across the country, distribute millions of free at-home tests and boost federal resources to hospitals in need.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about the omicron variant of the coronavirus in the State Dining Room of the White House, December 21, 2021 in Washington, DC. As the omicron variant fuels a new wave of COVID-19 infections, Biden announced plans that will expand testing sites across the country, distribute millions of free at-home tests and boost federal resources to hospitals in need. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

President Joe Biden on Tuesday gave credit to the Trump administration for the development of the Covid-19 vaccine and praised his predecessor, Donald Trump, for getting a booster shot -- marking a rare moment where the two men have found common ground since Inauguration Day.

"I got my booster shot as soon as they were available," Biden said during a speech from the White House about his administration's efforts to address the Omicron variant of Covid-19, adding, "and just the other day former President Trump announced he had gotten his booster shot."

"It may be one of the few things he and I agree on," Biden continued. "People with booster shots are highly protected. Join them. Join us."

Read the full story here.

10:24 a.m. ET, December 22, 2021

US hospitals battling latest Covid-19 surge put ad in local paper that reads: "Help"

From CNN's Artemis Moshtaghian

The Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020.
The Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. (Dustin Franz/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

"Help."

That word, in big black letters and surrounded by white space, called out from Ohio's largest newspaper -- a desperate plea from six Cleveland-area medical systems facing a crush of Covid-19 cases.

"We need your help," read the bottom of the ad. "We now have more COVID-19 patients in our hospitals than ever before.

"And the overwhelming majority are unvaccinated."

The ad was sponsored by Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, MetroHealth, Summa Health, the US Department of Veterans Affairs and St. Vincent Charity Medical Center.

It follows a similar plea from hospitals in Minnesota earlier this month, who took out a full-page newspaper ad that said, "We're heartbroken. We're overwhelmed."

Sunday's ad in the Cleveland Plain-Dealer was a response to the latest Covid-19 health crisis exploding in Northern Ohio, nearly two years into a pandemic that has killed more than 810,000 Americans and battered many of the nation's hospitals.

Read the full story here.